McIlroy happy to curb aggressive streak and conquer Sawgrass

McIlroy happy to curb aggressive streak and conquer Sawgrass
Rory McIlroy speaks to the media at Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy speaks to the media at Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy believes he’s learned to play with the shackles on at TPC Sawgrass and now has the maturity and discipline to win The Players.

Insisting he’s over the disappointment of the Masters, he told BBC radio he's ready to curb his attacking instincts and rely on the quality of his ball-striking to win the game’s unofficial fifth Major.

“I have learnt to love this tournament,” said the world No 8, who followed missed cuts in his first three appearances with three tops 10s and a 12th place finish from 2013 before slipping to tied 35th last year.

“I didn’t love it the first couple of years I played it. But you start to appreciate the design of the golf course and appreciate the game plan and the tactics you need to be successful around here. 

“I didn’t get that right the first few years. But now I feel like I have started to play the golf course better and play it a little smarter. 

“I play it against my natural instincts as a golfer which is to be aggressive and that seems to be the way forward around here. 

“I have embraced that challenge in recent years - hitting to the same spot as everyone else, hitting an eight iron to the green instead of getting a wedge in your hand. 

“On most courses I don’t have to do that, I can play to my strengths, but here I have to do it differently."

As for the Masters, where he was fifth behind Patrick Reed, he’s adamant that he’s over his final round 74 and looking to use his appearance in the final group there as a springboard to more success this season.

“Take away what happened there and look at my results and you’d say, ‘Rory is having a pretty good year,’” said McIlroy who is paired with Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in Florida.  “I just have to think of it like that. 

“You look back and think, ‘Jeez, if I had just done this or done that’ but going forward I know my game is in good enough shape to give myself a chance in all the other big tournaments coming up, not just the majors but this week and in everything else I have to play in.

“I feel I have a good chance to win more tournaments this year. I have played my way into one final group in a major and feel like I can play my way into other final groups. 

“And if I take when I learnt for that final day at Augusta, I can close a few of them off and won a few more tournaments.”

All eyes will be on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as they play together in a Sawgrass field featuring 80 of the world’s top 100 including Offaly’s Shane Lowry who has missed he cut in two of his three appearances at Sawgrass.

His best finish came two years ago when he tied for 16th behind Jason Day and after showing flashes of form in several events this season, he's overdue four good days.